LSD & Religion (Teaching Richard Rubenstein’s After Auschwitz at Syracuse University)


In class today talking about Richard Rubenstein’s After Auscwitz (1966), I suggested to the students that the turn away from a personal God towards the impersonal God of mysticism was a hallmark of the late 1960s and early 1970s. That is to say, that what Rubenstein early on called “paganism” turns out to be just mystical, which today is more or less common, even banal, but which wasn’t then, at least not yet or only as an emergent phenomenon. I claimed further that LSD had no small part to play in this transformation of religious consciousness at that inflection point in time. Innocently, I then recommended to my students that they actually ask their rabbis, priests, and ministers, assuming that they were my age or just a bit older, if they dropped acid when they were their age and how that may have influenced the way they thought about God, spirituality, and religion. I got a very good rise out of them. Animated but naive, my students know nothing about even the near past. What’s funny is that they can neither believe nor imagine that their rabbis, priests, and ministers did drugs, and that this may have had some important influence on the way they understand the world about them. The question itself, in turn, turned on the questioner.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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2 Responses to LSD & Religion (Teaching Richard Rubenstein’s After Auschwitz at Syracuse University)

  1. Cass says:

    So Elliot Wolfson and Art Green are acid casualties? Ok, maybe, but I doubt that is why they reject a personal God. Ask me about Shoreline in ’88 the next time we are together. I’ve been thinking about divine personhood a bit this semester and it is interesting how dodgy its strongest proponents are (Buber, Heshel, Muffs).

  2. dmf says:

    chemically enhanced or not there certainly was a focus on subjective experience, the merging of theology and psychology into “trans” personal, not much wrestling with theodicy after that turn…

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